Ten years ago Wayne Portanova stood before a hundred-foot gusher of hot water in the ghost town of Sulphurdale knowing he had released a resource capable of producing power.
Last week, Portanova, president of Mother Earth Industries, stood at the same place for the dedication on the Bud L. Bonnet Geothermal Power Plant. The plant, owned by Provo and located in Beaver County, 140 miles south of Provo near Cove Fort, uses the steam fields of old Sulphurdale to make electricity.Bud Bonnet, who was with Portanova at the site 10 years before, said Portanova was both "happy and scared" - happy because he found the steam source, but scared because the source was out of control.
Portanova now share rights to the steam field with Provo. Provo and Mother Earth Industries cooperated to develop the geothermal plant as a near pollution-free energy source of electricity.
Thirteen wells have been drilled, but only the first was an uncontrolled "gusher." Jay Grimshaw, owner of Sierra Drilling of Salt Lake City, drilled all of the later wells.
"I grew up in the water industry in Cedar City," said Grimshaw. He gained experience with geothermal resources in New Castle but also drilled for other energy resources. "When the economy went bad, I moved exclusively into geothermal."
Slim holes are drilled to locate the steam source, said Grimshaw. A drilling rig over a hundred feet high is used to drill a well. "They do gush, but we control it. There have been absolutely no accidents. We are very cautious. We respect the resource."
The steam is potentially lethal, so it is carefully controlled. The power plant treats the gas, which contains sulfur, to prevent its escape into the atmosphere.
Grimshaw said the drilling is "extremely challenging and very rewarding when we get to see this end result.
"It was exciting, I tell you."